What do you picture when you think of meditation?
Do you see someone sitting peacefully on the ground sitting in the lotus position? Their hands up in the air?
And do you think that seems like the most uncomfortable position in the history of the world?
Meditation is about finding a balance.
Sitting in the lotus position to meditate is just one way to find that balance.
There are actually several different ways to meditate and many of them can be accomplished in your spare time.
So if sitting “criss-cross applesauce” isn’t your style, there are still options to consider.
That way you can take advantage of the many benefits which meditation can bring to your life.
#1. Breathing Meditation
In the first stage of meditation, the goal is somewhat simple: to rid the mind of distractions.
This helps the mind become clear and lucid.
A simple breathing meditation can be enough to accomplish this first stage.
All you need to do is choose a quiet place to meditate and get into a comfortable position.
That means you can sit in a chair. You could sit on your bed.
You can run away from your desk and sit on the toilet in a locked bathroom if that’s what it takes.
The most important thing here is to keep your back as straight as possible.
When you sit with good posture, it prevents the mind from feeling sleepy or becoming sluggish.
Once you’ve found a comfortable place to sit, then you’ll want to keep your eyes at least partially closed.
Focus on your breathing, but not in the way that a doctor asks you to breathe when you’re being examined.
Take the air in through the nostrils if you can.
Do not attempt to control your breath if at all possible.
Feel the sensations of the air moving through your passageways.
Concentrate on this process and nothing else as best you can.
And, if you’re like the average person, your brain will start thinking about all of the important things you could be doing at the moment besides meditation.
Some people see this as a failure. It’s actually a success.
A busy brain indicates that your mind is becoming more aware of life and its surroundings.
If your mind happens to wander away from the breathing process, just come back to it as soon as you can.
Repeat each breath and follow its progress through your air passageways until your mind settles and you can experience the benefits of the first stage of meditation.
Breathing, though simple, can provide positive benefits.
Instead of focusing on the chaos of the world, you can begin to focus on the deeper levels of contentment and happiness that are buried in the subconscious.
This can help you cope with the difficulties of the day, relieve stress and tension, and stay centered emotionally.
#2. Vipassana Meditation
One of the most radical insights that has ever been offered to humanity is this: the cause of suffering can be erased when we see our true nature.
Vipassana meditation is the process that can help to make this happen on an individualized level.
This meditation focuses on the factors of life that can cause stress and pain.
By identifying desire and ignorance, we can begin to detach from the causes of distress that occur on a regular basis.
The goal with this meditation is to reduce emotional reactivity.
Get started by finding a comfortable position in which to sit, keeping the back straight.
Plan to meditate for 20 minutes, but if you can’t make it that long at first, try to accomplish at least 10 minutes of meditation.
Now sharpen your awareness.
Feel the temperature change in your nostrils as the air passes through them.
Observe your breath pattern.
Observe any other feelings that occur as you breathe.
Your chest may rise and fall. Your cheek may quiver.
Also observe any thoughts or feelings which occur during this time.
Do not react to those thoughts or feelings. Think of them as a document you are viewing.
There will be times that the mind will wander. This is normal.
Observe the wandering process.
Perhaps remind yourself that you are meditating so that you can come back to the sensations you are attempting to observe.
Then move your attention to the top of your head.
Observe if there are any feelings there.
If you do not sense anything, stay there a moment to be sure.
Then progress down your body, one stop at a time, noting the sensations that you experience.
You are developing equanimity during this process.
Do not get caught up in the amount of time it takes.
It may take the full 20 minutes or it could take just a single breath.
By knowing more about yourself and being aware of how you attach to certain dynamics in life, it becomes possible to recognize and then detach from the stress and pain that is being experienced.
#3. Walking Meditation
Maybe sitting still for a long period of time just doesn’t feel right to you.
Some people have legs that are very restless.
Others find movement just as peaceful as some find sitting in a comfortable position.
If you struggle to sit, then walking meditation could be a viable option to meet your needs.
Walking meditation does require some coordination between your senses and the movement of your body.
But it can also be immensely rewarding if you can get through those first awkward moments.
Because the eyes are open for this meditation, you can directly observe mindful moments as body sensations occur.
This allows the mind to tie-in these observations and sensations to the present, creating a moment of mindfulness.
Set a goal for 15-20 minutes for your walking meditation effort.
Walking can occur inside or outside.
The environment should be somewhat enclosed, like a natural trail or a secluded hallway in your home.
It is also important that you feel safe in your environment.
If you have a backyard that is protected by a fence, this would be a good location to attempt this type of meditation.
Begin by anchoring yourself.
Take a minute or two while standing still and just breathe.
Pay attention to how your body feels.
Note any potential sensations, feelings, or thoughts that could disrupt your balance. Acknowledge them.
Keep a slow walking pace.
Try to make it steady and even.
Any disruptions to your walking rhythm can agitate the mind, which weakens the mindfulness experience that can be achieved.
Then walk in a way that is comfortable to you.
Some people choose to walk back and forth along the same route.
Others prefer to walk toward a destination.
You may also prefer a mantra walking meditation that requires a specific number of steps for each breath, such as three steps then inhale, then three steps and exhale.
#4. Mindfulness Meditation
Do you believe that there are perfect moments around you right now?
Sometimes it can be difficult to see how a moment can be perfect.
Maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one.
Receiving bad news of any kind tends to inspire despair rather than joy.
Yet in even our darkest of days, there are still pinpoints of light that hope can provide.
It is within this hope that we can always find perfection.
Mindfulness meditation allows us to access this hope on a regular basis.
It is a process which allows us to experience the moments which we often ignore during our daily responsibilities.
Have you ever stopped for a moment and smelled something good that floated by on the breeze?
Like a backyard grill starting up, the smells coming from a steakhouse, or a blooming garden of wildflowers?
That moment where you stopped was a moment of mindfulness meditation.
Now let’s take those moments of meditation and expand them into minutes.
In mindfulness meditation, you experience life.
If you were to touch a wall, you would feel its temperature.
You would note its texture.
Does it feel hard or does it feel soft?
Is it rough or is it smooth?
We can place that level of focus onto our bodies as well.
Take 3-4 deep breaths as you close your eyes.
Then focus on one joint in your body.
How does it feel right now?
If it is painful, what is causing that pain?
Can you identify another part of your body that could relieve that pain?
How does it feel when the joint moves?
We can also apply that experience to our thoughts and emotions.
Why do we think certain thoughts? What causes us to feel certain ways?
Mindfulness can even be practiced while eating, experiencing the textures and flavors of the food.
The time we spend in mindfulness allows us to identify the moments of perfection that are surrounding us.
Then we can spend time with that perfection, seeing that life doesn’t have to be as dark as it often seems.
#5. Loving-Kindness Meditation
When meditation is often discussed, it is from a personal perspective. “Here is how I benefit from my meditating.”
Personal benefits are important, but a time of meditation can be much more than a focus on the self.
It can also be used as an outward expression of gratefulness, love, and kindness.
In Loving-Kindness meditation, there is an equal focus on opening the heart in addition to the mind.
The goal is rather simple: to cultivate compassion, love, and forgiveness for those who surround us every day.
To serve others is a spiritual path that has been incorporated into almost every religion and belief.
Love is what binds us all together. This form of meditation places an emphasis on an outward expression of that love.
There is a famous commandment in the Bible that says something like this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving others requires an element of loving oneself.
By taking part in Loving-Kindness meditation, that is exactly what you’re beginning to do.
You’re creating an environment of love that allows for meditation.
Then you push that love outward to everyone else that you know or meet throughout the day.
To start this form of meditation, it is necessary to become comfortable in your chosen space.
Keep your eyes closed and begin to visualize each person.
Picture the details of their face. Remember how they interact with others.
Once you have a full picture of them in your mind, offer them a blessing.
Loving-Kindness meditation is most effective when that blessing can be turned into a mantra.
Here is just one option you could use.
“May your day be filled with ease, your life with happiness, and be free of pain.”
Then repeat the mantra twice so that you’ve said it a total of 3 times.
If you offer the blessing more than 3 times, that is fine as well.
Picture as many people that you can during your 15-20 minutes of meditation, repeating the mantra for each one.
Then take a deep breath in, breathe out, and repeat.
Take a moment to pause and reflect on what you’ve just experienced.
Notice the state of your mind. How do you feel?
#6. Do Nothing Meditation
In the movie Office Space, the lead character is asked why he didn’t show up for work.
To paraphrase the scene, he’s asked what he did that weekend instead of coming into the office for overtime.
“I did nothing,” the character lead says. “I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.”
The line in the movie is designed to generate a laugh, but there is more truth in that statement than many realize.
The ability to sit and do nothing allows the mind to rest. It encourages a sense of peace to develop.
Do Nothing meditation is based on the idea that it is sometimes necessary to give up.
“Sit or lie down and just allow your mind to do its thing. Your aim is to tolerate being there without trying to control anything.”
Every time you notice a desire or intention to control your attention, choose to give it up.
Unlike some other meditation styles, there is no formal posture or position that you need to follow unless it is something you want to do.
Then you just let the day happen.
If you notice yourself doing anything intentionally, then Do Nothing meditation requires you to stop.
The point here is to distinguish between events you do control and events that are outside of your control.
There are many ways that we intentionally do something every day.
We might intentionally think about something, plotting and planning a way to solve a potential problem.
We can focus on something specific, like a conversation.
We can attempt to create equality, keep track of the news, or decide to read engaging content about the different ways there are to meditate.
Trying to meditate, in fact, is something we can intentionally do every day.
Let all of it go. Just be there, in the moment, doing nothing.
To say that this form of meditation is difficult would be understatement.
In our modern culture, the pace of life can be very fast.
The amount of information we all consume is enormous.
Some estimates say that our brains download 34 GB of data every day.
Do Nothing meditation stops the downloading process.
Try to keep doing nothing for 10 minutes if you can.
#7. Mantra Meditation
Many people are practicing a form of mantra meditation, even if they don’t realize that is what they are doing.
If you pray the Rosary, then you are participating in a form of this meditation.
If you structure your prayer with the use of beads, bracelets, or other tangible objects, then you are also practicing this meditation.
Virtually every culture in history of modern humankind has believed that the power of words is sacred.
In the ancient Vedic traditions, it was even believed that mantras could control or influence the gods.
Now in the traditional Buddhist meditation practices, chanting is sometimes practiced, though this is not technically a mantra meditation – though it could be used as such if someone so desired.
Any repetitive phrase has the potential to be a powerful addition to your daily routine.
There are some common mantras that are used around the world every day.
Even people who do not meditate regularly may know some of these phrases.
“Om Mani Padme Hum.”
“Ohm” or “Aum.”
Mantras like these are often considered to be sacred.
Many associate profound spiritual concepts to them.
They can be used by you during a time of meditation to communicate with yourself and the rest of the world with a greater level of harmony.
One unique option to consider if you’re looking to include Mantra meditation in your daily routine comes from the Torah.
Moses once asked God what His name happened to be.
In most Bibles, God answers Moses with this: “I Am that I Am.”
If one looks at the passage in Hebrew, however, and directly translates that phrasing into English, there is a second translation option that God offers to Moses: “I Will Be what I Will Be.”
Think about that as a mantra for a moment.
You are no longer defined by your past. Your future is no longer dictated. There is just this present moment.
You will be what you will be.
Another option that can be utilized in Mantra meditation is the use of a positive affirmation.
Using something as simple as “I will be happy,” as part of your meditation, can be all that is required to change your overall mindset.
#8. Concentration Meditation
Do you feel distracted more often these days?
You’re not alone.
Studies indicate that the average attention span for humans has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds since the year 2000.
To put that into perspective, the average goldfish has an average attention span of 9 seconds.
This means the average goldfish can concentrate more effectively than the average human.
Humans have minds that are almost constantly running.
There are thoughts about everything happening all the time.
When too many thoughts, decisions, or actions are being taken at once, it becomes difficult to complete a simple task at times.
It is a state that is often referred to as the “Monkey Mind.”
Concentration meditation is the act of shutting down all the excess programming that is going on in your brain right now. It stops the Monkey Mind.
Ever notice how a computer tends to slow down when there are multiple software programs that are open and running simultaneously?
If you shut down some of those programs, the computer begins to run faster and more smoothly.
The same thing happens to your brain if you shut down the items that you don’t need to be focusing on right now.
Think of your brain as a browser. How many tabs do you have up on your browser right now?
Most people have 6-8 open at any given time.
You’re going to be going down to just one open tab with Concentration meditation.
Get into your meditation environment. Find a position that is comfortable.
Then, one by one, begin to start turning off the needless noise and clutter that is slowing down your brain.
You’ll find it becomes much easier to concentrate on one singular point of focus when all the extra software that is running in your brain has been stopped.
When you first get started with Concentration meditation, you’ll notice that there are certain urges that can feel like they will overwhelm you.
There may be a need to check for texts on your phone.
Your mind might wander to what you want to post as a Facebook or Twitter update.
Take a deep breath when these urges come. Hold it for a period of 4 seconds. 1… 2… 3… 4.
Then let that breath out. Repeat until the urges go away.
That is what it takes to shut down just one program in your mind.
Once it is shut down, you’ll notice more urges begin to appear.
You might start thinking about work emails you need to send.
You might think about what to cook for dinner later.
You might start worrying about your family or friends.
Repeat the breathing process once again. Continue until the urge goes away.
Then keep going until you feel like you are focused on one element only: your breathing.
At this point, you’ve successfully shut down everything, so stay in this peace for as long as you can.
If you struggle to shut down all the excess software programs your brain is running, you haven’t failed.
It is the process of shutting down that is important to Concentration meditation.
The more you work on this process, then the more efficient you will become at it over time.
#9. Visualization Meditation
When you have a dream that you are pursuing, there are likely moments where you visualize yourself accomplishing that final step required to achieve your goals.
This is a small form of Visualization meditation.
To get to where you want to be, it is necessary to define where you are now.
This definition is the beginning of this form of meditation.
Many people use “goals” and “dreams” interchangeably, but they are two separate processes.
Many believe that achieving their goal will be the final step of their journey. It is not.
Achieving a dream is the final step of a journey.
This confusion is what causes many dreams to fail, as there is no consideration given to the goals that help define each person on their own individualized path.
In other words, we define ourselves by our accomplishments instead of the journey it takes to reach our dreams. The journey matters.
Visualization meditation helps you focus on that journey.
Start this type of meditation by imagining the best possible outcome that you would like to see happen in the next year.
Visualize yourself living out your life when all your dreams have come true. What does this reality look like?
At this point, negative self-talk often tries to stop the visualization process.
“You can’t achieve that goal in only 1 year. You’re not rich enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not dedicated enough.”
Set those thoughts aside. Acknowledge that they occurred, but continue onward with your visualization.
Trace your steps backwards.
How were you able to achieve your dream? What actions did you need to implement to take that final step?
Now imagine that you can take a photograph of this mental image.
Take a deep breath, create the snapshot, and then breathe out.
Repeat for each step you visualized.
Then set these images in your mind as if you are saving a file on a computer.
Bring yourself back to the present.
Now think about what needs to happen so you can take the first step of your journey.
Think about the decisions and actions you will take. Picture them in your mind.
Once you have that picture, it becomes possible to take action.
Maintain your focus and implement what you’ve visualized.
Through repetition, it becomes possible to create in reality what you’ve been creating with your mind’s eye.
#10. Counting Meditation
Many forms of meditation are designed to encourage a release of energy.
That allows the mind to reduce stress and anxiety.
Counting meditation takes a different approach.
It is more of a strength-building exercise to help create more power within your moments of concentration.
One of the key elements to transform the mind is to breathe correctly.
Many Buddhist meditators of the past have studied the connections humanity has with the mind, body, and external world.
Through regular practice, it is possible to regulate multiple processes.
It is possible to control the nervous system, personal moods, the circulatory system, and even thoughts.
By doing so, it becomes possible to perceive what the rest of the universe has in store for your life.
Counting meditation provides the foundation for correct breathing.
Each person has their emotional changes reflected in their breathing.
If you’re calm, then your breathing is deep and repetitive.
On the other hand, if you are excited, your breathing will accelerate and become shallower.
Through counting meditation, you change your emotional state because you are changing your breathing foundation.
For this meditation to be successful, the first step of the process is to learn how to properly breathe through your abdomen.
Find a place to sit that is stable and comfortable, but not so comfortable that you’re encouraged to slouch.
You want to be sitting straight up.
Have your feet even with each shoulder and flat on the floor. They should be parallel with each other.
With your right hand, place it palm-up on your lower abdomen. Let it rest in your lap as naturally as possible.
Then place your left hand, palm-up, on top of your right hand.
Join your thumb tips so that you are creating an arc shape.
Now tuck your chin just a little. Press the tip of your tongue to the roof your mouth, just behind your upper teeth.
Keep your eyes open while doing this.
You don’t want to be staring at a singular object. Just be relaxed and observe the world.
Now inhale through your nose.
Gently push out your abdomen, like it is filling up with the air that is coming into your body.
When your abdomen fills full, hold that breath for a count of 3 seconds.
Then slowly exhale through your nose, pulling your abdomen back into place.
Then pause again for a count of 3 seconds.
Once you become used to this method of breathing, then you’re ready to begin counting meditation.
Here are the steps which you will want to take:
#1. Get into the position required for abdominal breathing.
#2. Start the breathing process and inhale. Then pause.
#3. Exhale and at the very end of your breath, mentally count “1.”
#4. Repeat. Inhale, then pause, then exhale. At the very end of that breath, mentally count “2.”
#5. Continue to repeat until you reach the count of 10.
#6. Now continue the abdominal breathing, but begin to count in reverse. After reaching 10, at the very end of the next breath, you will mentally count “9.” Then “8.” Then “7.” And so on.
#7. If you have a random thought come through your mind and it causes you to hesitate with your counting, then you must start over and mentally count “1.” This applies if you’ve forgotten which number you are on or become distracted in any way from your abdominal breathing.
#8. The goal of counting meditation is to go from 1-10 and then back again, but it isn’t a competition. See if you can achieve this goal, but focus more on the abdominal breathing and counting.
Remember: counting meditation is an exercise which is designed to build strength.
Achieving a perfect session of this meditation type is difficult, even for those who have been practicing meditation regularly for years.
It will help learn how to keep distracting thoughts away and encourage the mind to concentrate.